Tuesday, May 10th: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah EL-Sisi and other Egyptian officials stated unequivocally their intention to widen and deepen the most important trade route – the Suez Canal Waterway. The Suez canal catastrophe provoked the shipping lines to seek other routes and offered substantial losses to different parties. The project will primarily focus on expanding the southern part of the Suez transit, the exact coordinates where the mega-ship Ever Given got stuck.
In a television address, Osama Rabie (Chairman, Suez Canal Authority) expressed the expansion plans alongside El-Sisi in response to the predicament situation caused by the six-day blockage and its consequences. Highlighting ship navigational improvements and plans, he stated, "It will lead to improvements in the ability of the guide and captain of any ship to navigate inside the canal."
Sisi said the grounding of the 440-meter Ever Given container ship on March 23 highlighted "the urgency of the stretching plans."
The transit accounted for 18,829 ships with a gross net tonnage of 1.17 billion last year, with estimated daily traffic of 40 to 50 ships. The grounding of the Ever Given and the ensuing blockade, which shut down the fastest maritime route between Asian and European giants for almost a week, has cost SCA $916 million. Egypt is keen to maintain its supremacy on Asia-Europe trading lanes, as the canal is one of the country's key sources of foreign currency, raising $5.6 billion in revenues in 2020.
Russia’s Northern Sea already presents itself as a potential candidate for the major shipping lines and countries like Japan are looking for alternative trade routes. Due to navigational and geopolitical loopholes, the route is nearly negligible for large vessels. But, in days of the crisis, nothing can be left out. Russia, making the most, has been reported to be deploying nuclear icebreakers to clear routes, making the accessibility better. The route is already gaining maritime traffic, with a total of 133 ships passing through the same route last year.
The old route of the Cape of Good Hope, which was originally used by seafarers, is also worth considering. This route requires an extra period of 15 days, which ultimately results in high fuel consumption. These problems were also the reason for the companies to cut short the trade distance by travelling through the Suez transit.
12% of the total volume of goods passes through the Suez canal regularly, which highlights its importance and makes it one of the world’s busiest trade routes.
Now, facing competition from both the northern and southern end, the Suez Canal is intended to hold a tight grip on being the best. Thus, the canal’s southern end will be stretched by a margin of 40 meters towards the eastern end, sidewise transforming the Sinai Peninsula. The waterway will also be dug deep up to a depth of 72 feet from the current 66 feet by SCA
To safeguard the competitive position of the Suez Canal, SCA intends to widen the canal’s southern stretch by about 40 meters to the east on the side of the Sinai Peninsula. The segment would also be deepened to 72 feet from the current 66 feet in depth.
The project will be initiated at the earliest and will take place over the next 24 months and will also include a five-mile expansion of the waterway's second path, which opened in 2015. This will extend the canal's double-lane stretch to 44 nautical miles, allowing further boats to travel through. Further, the added depth will leverage the bigger vessel transits, aiding the Egyptian economy.
SCA received a 48,000-ton dredge named Mohab Mamish last month, which will be part of a fleet working on the scheme. Egypt spent $8.5 billion on a northern canal extension project in 2015, but the southern segment between the Great Bitter Lake area and the Red Sea was never reinforced.